Volunteering in Dubai, how to donate clothes and more
Time Out has a guide to volunteering in Dubai, how to donate clothes and goods, health tips for happiness and more advise this summer
It's no great secret that this city has the happiness of its residents firmly on its radar. Earlier in 2016, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the appointment of a dedicated Minister of Happiness, as part of a plan to see the city become the happiest in the world by 2020.
While the government is hard at work to improve the city's overall satisfaction, starting with public services and extending far beyond, there are many easy ways to take an active role in your own happiness. One of the easiest routes is through inspiring happiness in other people. Doing something good for another person can directly positively impact your own levels of joy and overall wellbeing, according to the UK-based but globally reaching Action For Happiness organisation, which is crammed full of studies and statistics supporting its calls for random acts of kindness great and small. While it says that 50 percent of our personal happiness is linked to our genes, a paltry ten percent is connected to factors such as our environment and financial circumstances, and a highly actionable 40 percent is influenced by daily activities and the choices we make. By reaching out to others, we are actually doing ourselves a massive favour.
To kick-start your journey to happiness in Dubai, we've rounded up some inspiring ways to bring joy to others (and by happy coincidence, yourself).
Give your support to the [sameness] project This social awareness organisation’s ethos is to spread love and appreciation through “moments of sameness”, meaning breaking down the things that separate us and focusing on what makes us all collectively human. Two projects among many that you can volunteer to get involved with are “We’ve got your Back” – exercise programmes for taxi drivers – and “Water for Workers”, where you’ll get the opportunity to interact with labourers while handing them free bottles of water during the summer months. Contact the group online to get involved. the [sameness] project, www.thesamenessproject.com.
Assist at Riding For the Disabled The Desert Palm support group, which offers therapeutic horse riding sessions for children with disabilities including cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and spina bifida, is always looking for volunteers to assist as side-walkers or horse leaders. No equestrian experience is required – just an enthusiasm to give your time to enrich the lives of riders each week. Sound like you? Tally ho! Sat-Wed, times vary. Desert Palm, Al Awir Road, www.rdad.ae.
Foster an animal in need Summer typically sees a spike in animal abandonment cases, so now's the time to pitch in and open your home to a furry guest. The Animal Project is a community group that strives to raise awareness, provide basic welfare and assist with the adoption and fostering of animals in need. Owning a pet is a major investment of time, energy and money, and the group can advise on how you can be the best pet-owner possible. The Animal Project, www.friendsofanimalsdxb.com.
Take the Musandam Challenge Registered charity Gulf for Good pushes supporters to their limits. When it’s not trekking through the Himalayas or climbing Kilimanjaro, it’s handling the logistics of its next campaign, so you don’t have to. Sign up now and you can join an adventure in the terrain of Musandam from Friday November 25 to Friday December 2. Meet sponsorship targets and you could be cycling, kayaking and trekking in the wilderness to raise money for an Omani children’s charity. Registration fee: Dhs2,500; minimum sponsorship Dhs13,000. Gulf for Good, Dubai International Humanitarian City, www.gulf4good.org (04 368 0222).
Raise funds for families in Dhaka The Maria Cristina Foundation raises funds and awareness for families living in the Gawair slum area of Dhaka. Its founder, Maria Conceicao, runs marathons, breaks records and climbs mountains for the cause, but day-to-day help is also required. From getting involved with creating campaign materials and generating grant opportunities to visiting the schools funded by the foundation to teach and sponsor children, the organisation is always looking for assistance. Maria Cristina Foundation, www.mariacristinafoundation.org.
Run a marathon for charity We are approaching that halfway stage of the year when it means you have about 26 weeks to really start training for the Dubai Marathon, which takes place on Friday January 20. Among the charities specifically listed on the Dubai Marathon website (www.dubaimarathon.org) is the Al Jalila Foundation. This healthcare and medical research organisation is always looking for partners and individuals to help with fundraising. Al Jalila Foundation, Dubai Healthcare City, Oud Metha, www.aljalilafoundation.ae (04 383 8000).
Encourage creativity Start is a non-profit organisation that provides art therapy and workshops to children with special needs and refugees across the Middle East. Eight workshops every week at centres such as Al Noor and Dubai Autism Center give youngsters the chance to express creativity. No prior art or teaching experience is required in order to help out, as volunteers will be guided by a Start workshop instructor. Start, Dubai Knowledge Village, www.startworld.org (04 368 9895).
Dubai Cares One of the best-known philanthropic organisations in the UAE provides educational support for children in developing countries. The organisation has helped build and renovate more than 2,000 classrooms and schools, provided food for half a million students, trained 42,000 teachers and distributed more than two million books. Dubai Cares, Dubai Healthcare City, www.dubaicares.ae (04 450 4550).
Emirates Airline Foundation There’s more to the aviation brand than posh planes and comfy lounges. On a philanthropic level, its charitable foundation works to improve the lives of children living in extreme poverty. Money is raised on planes, via volunteering efforts and even through donating air miles. Emirates Airline Foundation, www.emiratesairlinefoundation.org (04 286 4126).
Dubai Foundation for Women and Children This non-profit shelter aims to protect women and children from the dangers of domestic abuse. As well as raising awareness of the problem in society it offers care and rehabilitation to victims. Donations can be made online and the foundation is open to volunteering opportunities. Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, www.dfwac.ae (04 606 0300).
Dubai Autism Center With almost 15 years in the spotlight as an educational organisation, this is one of the higher profile organisations of its type in the country. It runs regular fundraising opportunities and awareness campaigns, the most recent ran under the slogan "Accept me as I am", offering more information to the public about the condition. Dubai Autism Center, Al Hudaiba, www.dubaiautismcenter.ae (04 398 6862).
All 4 Down Syndrome Dubai As a support group, and not a registered charity, this organisation does not solicit funds or accept charitable donations. It does, however, have active volunteer programmes. Regular awareness campaigns such as World Down Syndrome Day help address issues all year round. Register with the group to find out how your skills and time can be used to improve the lives of more than 100 members and create opportunities for families effected by Down Syndrome. All 4 Down Syndrome, www.all4downsyndrome.com (050 880 9228).
Pink Caravan Breast Cancer Awareness is not limited to a few weeks of pinkness once a year. It’s a daily process and the Pink Caravan is the perfect embodiment of that. Tireless activities and ongoing awareness drives seek to educate and support anybody effected by breast cancer. Donations and volunteers are sought throughout the year. Friends of Cancer Patients, Corniche Street, Sharjah, www.pinkcaravan.ae (06 506 5542).
Operation Smile It is estimated that a child is born with a cleft every three minutes somewhere in the world, with one in ten dying before their first birthday. The UAE branch of this international charity seeks volunteer energy and funds. Skills required by the organisation range from technical, in terms of office administration and IT, to creative opportunities such as face painting, photography and design. Operation Smile UAE, Abu Dhabi, www.operationsmile.org (02 658 4790).
Camps International Forget cash offerings – devote your annual leave to sustainable travel by signing up for rural camps in countries including Kenya, Tanzania, Borneo, Ecuador and Uganda. Camps International is an expeditions specialist that operates 25 permanent camps with community or environmental agendas. Although primarily working with students and gap-year adventurers, it also has responsible travel experiences for which adults and families can register. Camps International, www.campsinternational.ae (04 450 8931).
Give some praise Tell somebody they are doing a great job and it will add a spring to their step. A colleague, a family member, a stranger – it doesn’t matter who, as long as it’s heartfelt and honest. Pay for someone else’s parking Leave loose change at a parking meter – we’ve all been caught short before. Do this on a street near a hospital or school and it’ll be especially well-received.
Allow push-ins Who needs to be at the front of the queue more, you buying crisps and dips for an afternoon DVD marathon or the parent buying a stack of nappies and trying to carry three crying children? And why not let out the occasional driver at busy junctions, too?
Phone home Next time you take a taxi, leave a phone credit top-up voucher for the next passenger. Attach to it a very simple message and you can make a difference around the world. All it needs to say is “call home”.
Take iftar to your doorman Whether it's the security guard or person sitting on reception in your building all day, take a bottle of laban and a bowl of dates or a small meal downstairs at iftar time.
Give a glowing recommendation Loved the cute guesthouse you stayed in on holiday? Support their business and guide future travellers by leaving a five-star review on TripAdvisor. Loved a meal you had in Dubai recently? Post your review for the restaurant on www.timeoutdubai.com.
Pay for someone's commute Take the Metro to work? Buy a day pass at the machine and place it on the screen for the next person who comes along.
Hang out with a Dubai newbie Moving to a new city is a huge step, so befriend the office newbie. Offer to show them around town, take them for dinner and introduce them to your friends.
And finally… be good to yourself
Meditate yourself happy Deciding to be happy and that you are going to actively pursue positivity and kindness is more than half the battle. Two-hour loving kindness meditations at community mental health and wellness clinic The LightHouse Arabia are designed to encourage self-analysis, group discussion and meditative practices for you to take home with you. Out another way the psychologists will literally teach you how to be kinder and more loving. Not bad eh? June 11, 10am-noon. The LightHouse Arabia, Villa 1, Al Wasl Road, www.lighthousearabia.com (04 380 2088).
Holistic Happy Hour Yoga, reiki, hypnotherapy and a variety of meditations have been pulling open-minded punters into JLT’s Illuminations for many a full moon. The Holistic Happy Hour sessions on a Monday afternoon are nothing short of eclectic and include talks by energy healers, reiki therapists, psychologists, nutritional health coaches and more. A full schedule is posted until the end of June, meaning you can pick a therapy taster that you like the sound of, register online and simply turn up and let the healing begin. Free. Every Monday, 4pm-6pm. Illuminations, Fortune Executive Tower, Cluster T, JLT, www.illuminations.ae (04 448 7043).
Hire a happiness consultant Even with a good job, secure home and a healthy relationship, many of us fall short of calling ourselves happy. In a very real sense, it’s something you need to teach yourself. Life strategist and happiness consultant Linda Chaccour runs coaching sessions through her business Emerge Coaching. The focus is on recognising the things in life that make you happy and creating an environment that encourages that. Because no two people experience the same happiness, Linda and her team offer individual programmes tailored to help you create happier relationships, work and home lives. Emerge Coaching, Boulevard Plaza Tower, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, www.emerge.ae (04 444 9474).
Sleep well Chasing after experiences to make you happier overlooks one essential fact – rest and a good night’s sleep is one of the most important ingredients. Along with nutrition and shelter, it’s probably one of the most conclusive factors in how happy you are, yet it’s almost certainly the aspect you least cultivate. Experts at the London Sleep Centre take a diagnostic approach to measuring the quality of your sleep and can give you a tailored treatment plan to help you get your eight hours. We’re sure there is more to it than a glass of warm milk and switching your phone off. The London Sleep Centre, Al Wazi Building, Dubai Healthcare City, www.londonsleepcentre.ae (04 442 1091).
Hula yourself happy Working on the dual assumption that we’ve never seen somebody frowning while hula hooping and that the adrenaline rush from physical exercise makes the body and mind happier, we remain convinced that Flowground’s fitness sessions are an overwhelming force for good. Check out the individual classes at The Fridge in Alserkal Avenue to get a basic grasp of how hula movement can make you happy or contact the Flowground team to see how a single hoop can bring a workplace closer together. Prices and times vary. Flowground, The Fridge, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, www.flowground.com (056 697 0099).
Choose feel-good foods at iftar There’s a direct link between your diet and happiness levels. Studies link bad nutritional decisions with depression and anxiety. It’s over simplistic to say that processed foods and excessive sugar consumption are going to have adverse effects, while organic foods and a balanced diet is going to make you skip merrily about your day. But it’s a decent starting point and a session with a nutritionist such as those at Bespoke Wellness will give you more reasons why. Bespoke Wellness, Emirates Golf Club, Emirates Living, www.bespoke-wellness.com (055 372 4670).
Design a happy home Creating a harmonious living environment will help make you happier. Simple. The Chinese art of feng shui claims to provide energy and happiness to a home by correct placement of possessions. Not so simple. Feng shui courses at the Dubai International Art Centre could help you channel your happiness through the medium of putting cushions in the right place. From Dhs1,200 (six-week course). 1pm-3pm. Dubai International Art Centre, Villa 27, Street 75b, Jumeirah 1, www.artdubai.com (04 344 4398).
Boasting quite possibly the most enviable job description in town, Dubai has a self-proclaimed “laughter facilitator”. Jo-Dee Walmsley is a motivational speaker and the CEO of Simply Laughter Worldwide (www.simplylaughter.com), which organises stress-relieving workshops and laughter yoga across the city. Here, she reveals some of the benefits of a good giggle.
Laughter dissolves distressing emotions You can’t feel anxious, angry or sad when you’re laughing.
Laughter helps have fun in traffic Change the way you feel while sitting in heavy congestion by laughing at the situation rather than letting it irritate you.
Laughter helps you relax and recharge Enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more. It reduces stress and increases energy.
Laughter helps relationships Humour and playful communication can strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering emotional connections. When we laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements and disappointment.
Laughter creates a happier work environment With so many different cultures, beliefs and languages in one workplace, it is often easy to be misunderstood. Laughter breaks the ice in a tense moment and helps everyone get along.
Laughter improves productivity and creativity When you’re in a good mood and you’re releasing endorphins – the “happy chemicals” – you’re more alert and able to work better. Laughter also improves teamwork, and in a sales environment, can boost rapport with clients.
Laughter decreases employee turnover When you’re happy at work you’ll go into work, saving a company a lot of money in replacements and absenteeism.